Hello again. Apologies for the radio silence – no need for anyone to worry as I’m alive and well and residing in Fort Bragg. Yes Ma’am.
On Friday morning (16 May) I left my motel in good spirits but with a little apprehension about the journey ahead. Especially in light of my first foray into driving in America the night before. I retrieved the sat nat from the trunk of my car. What? That’s just what they call the boot over here! Just trying to fit in! I was heading off to collect Naho from her hotel. Naho is from Tokyo, Japan and is doing the same raw food course as me in Fort Bragg. She had emailed me a month ago after seeing I was offering a lift from San Francisco to Fort Bragg. We had been in regular contact by email and I had agreed to collect her from her hotel at 8am. I allowed plenty of time for the 10 minute journey by leaving at 7.10am. Plenty of time to get lost, get back on track, have a mini panic, compose myself, etc and not be late. Hmmmm! It didn’t really work out like that.
I tapped the address in the sat nav (for the purpose of this exercise and to save having to type sat nav repeatedly i’m going to call the sat nav Lois) took a deep breath and set off. After nearly an hour of driving, due to over anticipating Lois’s instructions or not being assertive enough to get in the right lane for turning, etc (the Frisco drivers don’t really want to let you in), Lois announced that I would shortly be arriving at my destination on the left 425 Marina Boulevard). This was music to my ears, except there was no hotel there! Noooooooooo! I drove a bit further on, still no hotel. I pulled over and in desperation got out of the car and asked a passer by if he knew where the hotel was. He said he’d never heard of it and so I showed him the address I had. He exclaimed, “Dude, that address is in South San Francisco, this is San Francisco. It’s like another city”. I was spitting distance from the Golden Gate Bridge at that moment but clearly miles away from Naho and her hotel!
I was starting to get quite anxious by now. Firstly because I had at least an hours drive to get to Naho and her hotel. Secondly because I’d driven near a huge suspension bridge which was so high up over the water that I was starting to panic. Just in case you don’t know, I have an issue with heights. I can be fine one moment and then in abject terror the next. It’s quite overwhelming. Anyhoo, as I said, I’d seen this huge suspension bridge and it had unnerved me and made me start to question whether it was a good idea to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.
I managed to take myself in hand and gave Lois the “correct” address to Naho’s hotel and off we set. Lois advised to drive for half a mile and then to turn right. I followed her instructions and turned right onto what I can only describe as the highest street I’ve ever seen in my life. It was almost vertical it was that steep, and long! Oh my god! I was so scared as I could see this huge expanse of road ahead and had no idea what was on the other side of the summit. I must admit, a small part of me died at this point! I started to drive up this street with trepidation and fear. The worse thing was that there were regular stopping points to give way and I was terrified that I would lose clutch control and plunge backwards to my death causing all manner of havoc on the way. My rookie style of driving was gaining attention and clearly annoying the locals who made their annoyance known by bibbing their horns, which as you can imagine, further added to my sense of distress. I did, however, make it to the top and to my relief there wasn’t a sheer drop on the other side.
By now the traffic in San Francisco was rush hour as people headed to work and children were being taken to school. I wouldn’t normally enjoy being stuck in traffic but today I welcomed it. It gave me a chance to give myself a pep talk in an attempt to calm myself down. I managed to get myself under control and by and by over the next hour found my way to the Inn at Oyster Point where Naho was waiting patiently for me.
I stormed into the hotel all raw nerves endings and apologies. I must have looked demented as I rushed into the reception area all out of breath and talking at a million miles an hour. Naho was lovely and kind and we had a good chat before setting off for our journey to Fort Bragg. To be honest I really just felt like abandoning the car and getting the two buses there.
We negotiated our way back through San Francisco and I braced myself for the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I was a bit devastated about how I was feeling as I have loved the GGB since I was a kid and up until my traumatic car journey had seen the drive over the GGB as one if the highlights of the trip. As we we getting closer I formulated a plan to just look forward and don’t look to the sides for fear of noticing how high up I was and then having a panic attack. We passed the last point at which we could turn off and forged forward. My heart was beating out of my chest and I kept driving. It was then I noticed that there were barriers to the sides of the bridge which meant that you couldn’t really get the sense of height and I felt more relaxed.
Once over the GGB and away from the City of San Francisco we headed northwards. About 9 miles later we pulled in at a place called Stinson Beach. It was a tiny town with a beautiful beach and we stopped off for a nice cup of tea and a rest. It gave Naho and I a chance to chat and get to know each other better. I was feeling much more relaxed by now and was getting my personality back. I decided to leaved the blood-drained panicked version of myself behind and moved on.
The road trip was really starting to take shape now and we were enjoying all the beauty that North California has to offer. The sun was shining and I felt lucky to be alive. The scenery was breathtaking and varied. We drove through forests and passed beaches. I was completely blown away with how beautiful it was. We stopped off at the Estero Cafe in Valley Ford and had lunch. It was only meant to be a toilet stop but when I asked the owner if we could use the “bathroom” she told us it was for customer’s only! So we immediately converted ourselves into customers by ordering lunch and everyone was happy. I must say the Thai coconut soup was to die for.
Following lunch we hit the road again and enjoyed a further pleasurable assault on our senses as North California ticked all the boxes. At this point I was driving like a local and loving every minute of it. Around 4pm I started to become concerned as we had to return the rental car to Fort Bragg by 5pm and we were about an hour and a half away. We arrived at Enterprise car rentals about 5.2 fully expecting the office to be locked up as they close at 5pm. We were pleasantly surprised when it was still open. We were greeted by a lovely lady who said she’d waited for us. We handed the car back and asked for directions to the inn where we would be staying. She gave us directions and just as we were walking away she called us back and said she would give us a lift. She took us in her own car and showed us some warm Californian hospitality. The lady in question was called Ellen.
Welcome to Fort Bragg – I never thought I’d get here alive but here I am. Praise the Lord! X